March 2009

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Christopher Walken, still weird after all these years
I’m pretty sure everyone likes Christopher Walken. It’s hard not to. After all, the guy’s managed to make a multi-decade career in Hollywood playing variations of one character: himself. He’s cooky, either to comedic or creepy effect. He’s so distinct that it seems every comedian has an impression of him. Yet he still gets roles because nobody does him better than him.

Today is the man’s 66th birthday. To celebrate, let’s take a look at a variety of things that make Walken The Man:
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There’s a little game we like to play in my family. It’s called “make mom laugh until sound stops coming out and maybe she pees a little”. There’s no telling what will set her off, but once we get her going it’s all hands on deck to push it as far as possible. People will come running from all over the house to join in. The dogs will start barking (probably from the super-sonic noises). In general it’s mass hysteria. It usually ends with her waving her hands in front of her eyes to dry the tears. And her callous, jaded children basking in their accomplishment.

Why do I bring this up? Because this video just did that to me. Not my mom. Me. Comedy works in mysterious ways. Sometimes it’s a well-timed, well-honed joke. Sometimes it’s a hamster in a wok:

If any of my family members are reading this, please show it to mom. And tape her reaction. If she goes into full-on dog-whistle laugh, I win.

I’ve been under the weather all week, so I haven’t posted as much as normal. So some things have slipped through the cracks. Let’s get you caught up:

Shooter McGavinShooter McGavin gets more ass than you do. Still. Even though Happy Gilmore came out 13 years ago.

This explanation of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” is exactly what I miss about being a music major. I love taking a piece of music and putting into its original context, then breaking it down to see how the pieces tell a story. And in this case it’s a great piece of music and a great story. Almost makes you want to be Russian, doesn’t it?

Statler and Waldorf went on Jimmy Fallon’s show to talk about Jason Segals’ upcoming The Greatest Muppet Movie of All Time, which apparently has a script that doesn’t suck:

The Felice Brothers have a new album coming out April 7th. You can pre-order Yonder is the Clock now, and you can check out the first single, the rollickin’ “Run Chicken Run”:

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Vince Offer, the ShamWow guyThe ShamWow guy got arrested for allegedly battering a prostitute in Miami. The Smoking Gun has the mugshot goodness. I guess Slap Chop doesn’t work on hookers. Say what you will about Billy Mays; at least he’s never beat up a hooker (that we know of). This is a bit of a bummer though, since good ol’ Vince is fighting against Scientology.

A homebrew adaptation of Raiders of the Lost Ark is coming to the bigscreen. Three teenagers put together a shot-for-shot remake over 7 summers. That was almost 15 years ago. Now the film’s finally getting a release in Britain. Check out the trailer:

country singer/songwriter Justin Townes Earle
Music is a notoriously difficult family business. If your parent is a star, odds are pretty good that despite your best efforts, you won’t be. Just ask Jakob Dylan. Or Sean Lennon. So with Steve Earle as a dad, Justin Townes Earle has his work cut out for him. Fortunately he has all the tools he needs to escape his dad’s shadow and create his own career. And with three solo albums under his belt at age 27, he’s well on his way.
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Pearl Jam released a bunch of different packages of a re-issued version of Ten this week. In honor of the release let’s take a look at one of the videos that launched that album into mainstream culture, “Alive”:

“Alive” was the band’s first single. Though it didn’t chart terribly well it did establish Pearl Jam as an up-and-coming band. The video was shot at a live show in August of 1991. Since it uses the audio from that performance it differs from the album and single versions (most notably in the guitar solo). Though it doesn’t sound quite as good as the album version, the video does show the force of Pearl Jam’s live shows, something that’s continued over almost 20 years.

Vegas. Bachelor Party. A tiger. Mike Tyson. What else do you need? Check out the trailer for The Hangover, with Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, and Ed Helms:

It gives me kind of a Very Bad Things vibe, which is a good thing. The Hangover comes to theaters June 5th.

If you’ve been reading for a while you know I’m kind of excited for Spike Jonze’s adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are. It’s not because the book is an integral part of my childhood. It’s not because I think the effects will be cool. It’s for one simple reason: Spike Jonze. There are a few filmmakers I trust implicitly. Not necessarily to always make good movies. But to consistently make movies that are interesting and different. Jonze’s two feature films, Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, are at worst intriguing, and at times both are brilliant. His music videos are groundbreaking classics of the genre. So when word got out that he was making a gritty adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s classic tale of a child creating his own world of monsters to escape reality, I was hooked.

It’s been a long journey for the film so far. First there was the leaked test footage. Then there were reports that Warner Bros wanted a complete reshoot, and they pushed its release back almost a full year. Then just last week we got a top notch poster. Today we get our first taste of whether Jonze’s vision will bring Sendak’s Wild Things to the screen in a believable, engaging way. Here’s the first trailer:

I can tell you that after watching this I’m even more excited for this movie. In case you’re wondering, the song is Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up”, and yes, it does fit perfectly.

I’m going to see Josh Ritter tomorrow night. He always puts on a good show, and I’ve seen him work in cool covers before. I’ve never seen him do this one however. It’s his spin on Tom Petty’s “Walls”. Even though it’s not one of Petty’s more popular songs, it’s a good one, and it fits Ritter pretty well. Check it out:

drummer and album-release trendsetter Josh Freese

In this age, where illegally downloading music is actually easier than buying it, artists are coming up with creative ways to get people to pay for their music. An increasingly-popular way is to bundle the music with other valuable things. The White Stripes sold Icky Thump on limited edition Jack and Meg USB drives. Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor did something similar with last years Ghost I-IV, making the album available for free, but selling packages that included bonus material. But now Reznor’s buddy has taken this concept to a new, awesome, level.

Josh Freese is a drummer. He’s played with Nine Inch Nails, Devo, The Vandals, and A Perfect Circle. Now he’s releasing a solo album called Since1972, and you can download it for $7. Or, for only $75,000 you can get the album, a bunch of other stuff, and Freese will join your band. Or if you don’t have a band, he’ll be your personal assistant. Plus he’ll take you on a limo ride to Tijuana, get you trapeze lessons with Robin from NiN, and take you a shroom-fueled drive in Danny from TOOL’s Lambo. In other words, for $7 you get some music. For $75k you get a shit ton of awesome.

If $75 grand is out of your price range, there are plenty of other levels that have their own cool prizes. Want to go to his house and take three things from his closet? $2,500. Want him to give you a foot and back massage? $10k. For only $250 you can go to lunch with him at either PF Changs OR Cheesecake Factory! Now that seems like a bargain to me.

I have no idea if the music will be any good at all, but you have to admire the creativity. Hopefully more artists will pick up on this, and I’ll finally be able to take Neko Case to dinner at Olive Garden…

Check out Reese’s promo video for this whole deal:

Bourgeois Gypsies
I love music steeped in blues and Americana. I also love not having the flu. Fortunately I get one of the two tonight. Unfortunately it’s the music. So we’re going to keep this short…

Bourgeois Gypsies are an odd mix. From their name to their members to their music, everything about them feels like a juxtaposition. They’re made up of a veteran troubadour, the young innkeeper from a nude resort, a guy who dropped off the grid for four years before joining the band, a spatula collector, and part-time guitar player who spends the rest of his time skiing. Their music is a similarly odd mix, drawing influence from punk folk artists like Ani DiFranco, the barroom tales of Tom Waits, and old-school bluesmen like Mississippi John Hurt. Somehow they manage to make all the odd mixes work though, and the result is something unique to them.
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